EU Project Pravo-Justice Held the Online Discussion “Topical Issues Relating to the Competences of Forensic Experts”

29.03.2023 |

On March 28, the EU Project Pravo-Justice held the online discussion on the topic “Topical Issues Relating to the Competences of Forensic Experts.” The event was attended by the representatives of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, forensic institutions of MIA, MoJ, SSU, MoH, State Border Service of Ukraine, and private forensic experts, academia, and experts of the EU Project Pravo-Justice.

That event has become one in a series of online discussions that the EU Project Pravo-Justice has been conducting with the aim of identifying the problems that exist in the field of forensics and elaborating appropriate solutions together with forensic experts, academia, and representatives of public authorities.

“As of today, four draft laws have been registered in the Verkhovna Rada, which offer various definitions of forensic examination and even of forensic research. Accordingly, this leads to different opinions regarding what the requirements, knowledge, and qualifications of experts should be. At this online discussion, we want to have the opinions of forensic experts; to find out how they see the issue of regulating the competences and qualifications of forensic experts”, said Iryna Zharonkina, Property Rights and Enforcement Component Lead, EU Project Pravo-Justice in her welcome speech.

Oleksandr Banchuk, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine, spoke about the government's draft law No. 6284 “On Forensic Activity”. He informed that the document envisages the replacement of regular requalification of forensic experts by greater requirements at the stage of admission to the profession.

“The principle will be that at the beginning there is stricter access to the profession, and then once every three years, the requalification takes place,” said Oleksandr Banchuk.

According to him, the legislative initiative of the Ministry is important because it unifies the rules of disciplinary proceedings in respect of forensic experts.

“This issue is regulated by the by-laws of the Ministry of Justice, the Security Service of Ukraine, the Ministry of Internal Affairs – each institution exercising powers in respect of the relevant qualification commission. The Ministry of Justice proposes to enshrine in law all the details and stages of such disciplinary proceedings. We aim at unifying the procedures for bringing to justice forensic experts who, for some reason, have committed a violation,” emphasized Oleksandr Banchuk.

The Deputy Minister of Justice brought up the idea of establishing a unified qualification commission with proportional representation from all relevant institutions.

“I believe that such a Commission should be created, at least as an appellate body. This will enable persons who disagree with the decisions of the qualification commissions at their institutions to appeal. In this way, we would be able to form unified disciplinary practice in the field of forensic activity”, added Oleksandr Banchuk.

Andrii Haichenko, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine, emphasized in his introductory speech the importance of logistics support to ensure the quality of work of forensic experts. He thanked the EU Project Pravo-Justice for the 3D scanners provided to the forensic institutions of the Ministry of Justice, which speed up the examination tenfold.

“The examinations, that would otherwise take the whole day or even more on, can be completed in 15-20 minutes with the help of 3D scanners. Let us not forget either about the security aspect. Many places where examinations are to be conducted are mined, which poses a threat to the safety of forensic experts. The equipment provided by the partners from the EU Project Pravo-Justice allows conducting examinations remotely,” noted Andrii Haichenko, referring to, as an example, the work of forensic experts-bomb technicians.

Kostiantyn Kovaliov, Advisor to the Director of the State Research Forensic Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, told how forensic experts are trained in their Center.

“All our training programs for forensic experts are approved by leading scientific and higher specialized institutions, as well as by the Institute for the Training of Forensic Experts. There is a unified approach to the training of all specialists of our services", said Kostiantyn Kovaliov.

He also claimed being in favor of uniform requirements for all experts in the framework of professional development, while questioning the idea of creating a single disciplinary commission for all forensic experts. That is because he believes that such a body would have an excessive workload and would not be able to deal with the cases in a timely manner.

“It is more expedient for each body to have its own commission,” added Kostiantyn Kovaliov.

Nataliia Tkachenko, Director of the Department of Forensic Support of Justice, Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, shared her opinion as to deeper cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science for proper and sustainable training of forensic experts.

“Cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science is needed, since the expert’s competence is also determined by the scope of his/her special knowledge. What we have now is the Ministry changing the classification of fields of expertise once every three years; and as a consequence there is a problem with the qualifications of forensic experts and their delineation by field of expertise”, noted Nataliia Tkachenko. The representative of the Ministry of Justice briefly touched upon the moral and ethical aspect of the training of forensic experts.

Ihor Starodubov, President of the “Union of Experts of Ukraine” NGO, said that his organization jointly with the Kharkiv Research Institute of Forensic Expertise named after Prof. N. S. Bokarius had launched a scientific endeavor on the development of the Handbook of Professional Competence of a Forensic Expert.”

"This is the first step so that in the future it will be possible to determine the necessary knowledge that an expert should possess in certain area of expertise,” said Ihor Starodubov.

Vladyslav Fedorenko, Deputy Director of the Kyiv Branch of the National Research Center "Institute of Forensic Expertise named after Prof. M.S. Bokarius” stated that in order to improve the qualifications of experts, it is advisable to conduct short-term training courses to help experts “keep updated on legislative, technical, and organizational novelties.”

“In addition to short-term courses, I believe, it is also important to hold scientific and communication events, in particular, similar to the one we are having today. It is also necessary to make publications, where experts would explain the peculiarities of their work, new methods and approaches not only in purely scientific, but also in popular science editions. It would be good to have a system of tutoring or facilitation in place, when experienced experts would teach younger colleagues,” suggested Vladyslav Fedorenko.

Stanislav Liubchenko, Head of the Center for Forensic and Special Expertise of the Ukrainian Research Institute of Special Techniques and Forensic Examinations of the SSU, shared best practices of the SSU expert service as to the training and raising qualifications of forensic experts.

“All our employees and future experts are trained at the SSU Academy. This guarantees quite high academic knowledge of our forensic experts”, said Stanislav Liubchenko. He also emphasized the need to develop mentoring and assign a tutor to each new employee.

“Mentoring is very important. Many nuances are not spelled out in the methodical recommendations. Training of a young employee by an experienced expert is what allows sharing knowledge and best practices of conducting forensic examinations, talking about the subtleties and peculiarities of the organization of certain examinations”, added Stanislav Liubchenko.

Margarita Zhuravliova, Deputy Director for expert activities of the Odesa Research Institute of Forensics, raised the issue relating to the admission of future experts to internships.

“According to the existing regulation, a candidate for internship should have a diploma of Specialist or Master degree. Unfortunately, today the diploma is not a guarantee of proper professional knowledge of the future expert,” stated Ms. Zhuravlyova and suggested the idea of obliging the future experts to pass an exam before they start internship.

In addition, she confirmed the expediency of changing approaches to raising the qualifications of forensic experts and supported the idea of introducing a single central forensic qualification commission.

Nadiia Kushakova, First Deputy Director of the Dnipropetrovsk Research and Development Institute of Forensics, emphasized the necessity of proving the qualifications by forensic experts at least once every three years, so that the experts get familiar more in-depth, from time to time, with the methods of conducting forensic examinations, and update their knowledge of legislation. She also supported colleagues and spoke in favor of the development and improvement of mentoring.

Henadii Pampukha, Managing Partner of the Independent Institute of Forensics, supported the idea of raising the qualifications of forensic experts at special courses like those delivered for the UNBA members.

Based on the results of the online discussion held on March 28, the EU Project Pravo-Justice will prepare an analytical report and submit it to the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, the Committee on Legal Policy of the Verkhovna Rada, and other authorities.